Monday, November 7, 2016

Frugal Camping in San Diego and Free Things to Do…

Mission Beach CA 015

The first thing we do to save money is to stay a month. For example if we were to stay at the daily rate here at Mission Bay RV Resort we would be paying $60.00 plus 10.5% tax per night. Instead we book the monthly rate so we are only paying $29.84 per night including the taxes. This is a savings of over 50% per day! This is still higher than the $18.25 per day we have been averaging per night this year but there are other savings when staying a month.


Many folks we talk to ask… How can you afford to stay in San Diego or even southern Florida in the winter? When we stay at these locations in high season we expect to have to pay a lot more for camping and realize it is the price we pay for our desire to be near the ocean and beaches as well as all the attractions that go along with them.

Mission Beach CA 021

When considering we we spend $166 per month on average this year for diesel it means we are saving an additional $5.50 per day not driving the RV. This brings our daily average for staying in San Diego to $24.44. Many parks charge additionally for electricity when staying monthly but this one doesn’t so there are no additional costs involved. Staying in San Diego for under $25.00 per day is a bargain to us yet many still others still may feel it is too expensive to experience this city.


More money can be saved by staying further away from the ocean and beaches. This holds true even more in southern Florida. For example many RV’ers  stay in Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve. The cheapest site there is $24.33 per night but they charge for electricity making it only a bit cheaper than staying where we usually stay so our feeling is why not be closer to the beaches we love! Plus we can save money by riding our bikes to the beach whereas we would have to drive from Santee.


Another reason to stay in such a beautiful city as San Diego is there are lots of free things to do. Some of our favorite things to do in San Diego that cost nothing are:

  1. Ride our bikes along the nearly 20 miles of the Mission Bay Bike Trail which can take us all around Mission Bay and over to Pacific Beach.
  2. Visit Balboa Park for a nice long stroll through one of the most beautiful parks in the USA where there is plenty to see and do. A big treat is to hear the Spreckels Organ Pavilion outdoor pipe organ free concerts on Sunday afternoons.
  3. Walk the shoreline of La Jolla. The rocky shoreline in La Jolla is stunningly beautiful and there are neat little pocket beaches to explore. Seals are everywhere and if you have your own snorkel gear like we do you can even snorkel with the seals!
  4. Drive to the top of Mt Soledad in La Jolla for 360 degree views of San Diego
  5. The Torrey Pines State Natural Area has lots of hiking among the cliffs above Black’s Beach. The area also is where people are frequently seen paragliding or hang gliding.
  6. Walk along the Embarcadero adjacent to downtown San see many historic ships in the harbor as this is also a fishing harbor and cruise ship terminal so there is much to see.
  7. If you have the National Park’s Golden Age Pass you need to go see the tidal pools in Cabrillo National Monument.
  8. We love driving the short distance over to Mission Beach and walk the three mile boardwalk… great for people watching and hanging out on the beach.


Actually there are plenty of other free things to do in San Diego including hiking, exploring the college campuses, scenic drives  and taking in a round of disc golf. While we haven’t ever taken up geocaching it too is another way to have fun at no cost. So although it may cost a bit more to stay we have found ways make it affordable. We love our extended stays in beautiful and warm San Diego!!!


  1. I would say that for staying in San Diego area for a month you got a good price, still pricey but for that area it is pretty much a bargain. We were lucky enough to have a place to stay for free at a friend's place for the few nights that we were in that area in April but we were a very far distance from San Diego centre. We really enjoyed the area and would love to go back for a longer length of time. We hardly got any time to see San Diego proper. Glad you enjoyed your stay there.

  2. San Diego is one of my favourite cities. Love the atmosphere. Check out Old San Diego, Point Loma and last but not least Border State Park. There, you see the border fence that goes into the ocean. Asked a Border Patrol officer how they would stop somebody from floating around it. Said they don't, they just pick them up at the Imperial Pier.

  3. San Diego is one of our favorite places to stay. We've tried to figure out how we can plan it in this year again but it might just have to wait until next. Enjoy yourselves.

  4. If a person looks close enough, there are plenty of free things to do almost any where. Some people just don't want to take the time to look. Houston is full of free things to do and see. Good job on your list.

  5. We enjoyed San Diego a few years ago. staying in a couple of free membership parks less that an hour away and did so much there.
    Free things to do most everywhere is what we mostly look for too.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Love this post... We also stayed at Mission Bay RV Park in January and did all of the things on your list, too, and a few others that cost some $. But with so much fun free stuff to do, it really was one of our favorite cities to visit. (But I think you meant Cabrillo National Monument instead of Reyes National Seashore as Reyes is 30 miles north of San Fran...we really enjoyed our visit to both places earlier this year.)

    1. Oops, you are correct and I edited our blog. Point Reyes is great for tidal pools as well but since it is closer to San Francisco it certainly wasn't the one I wanted in this list!

  8. we've stayed in San Diego several times, usually a month at a time, which makes it more affordable- we usually stay at Campland, which is similar to where you are staying.